Information on the crime of Operation of Unauthorized Vehicles on California Trails and Paths is found at California Vehicle Code section 23127. Below, you will find information on the law, the penalties, and the common defenses that are associated with VC 23127. We have included some information on post-conviction options.
VC 23127 Law (Abbrev.)
VC 23127: No person shall operate an unauthorized motor vehicle on any state, county, city, private, or district hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path that is clearly marked by an authorized agent or owner with signs at all entrances and exits and at intervals of not more than one mile indicating no unauthorized motor vehicles are permitted on the hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path, except bicycle paths which are contiguous or adjacent to a roadway dedicated solely to motor vehicle use.
Unauthorized Motor Vehicle: For purposes of VC 23127 law “unauthorized motor vehicle” means any motor vehicle that is driven upon a hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path without the written permission of an agent or the owner of the trail or path (VC 23127).
In essence, VC 23127 is designed to keep horse trails, walking paths, bike trails, and scenic dirt roads free from dangerous, destructive, and noisy motor vehicles. Nevertheless, VC 23127 applies to non-gas-operated vehicle, including golf carts, electric bikes and electric scooters, ATVs, electric dirt bikes, and more.
VC 23127 Penalties
Unauthorized operation of a motor vehicle on trails or paths is classified as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor offense is a classification of crime that is less serious than a felony but more serious than an infraction (See Misdemeanor v. Felony).
Jail: If found guilty of a violation of VC 23127, the defendant could face up to 180 days in jail (assuming no other criminal charge accompanies the VC 23127 charge). Jail sentences for violation of VC 23127 are served locally in a county jail. Defendants are entitled to a fifty percent (50%) reduction of their jail sentences if they serve their jail sentence with good behavior (Credits for Time Served [CTS].
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision in stead of an actual jail sentence. Probation sentences are allowed in VC 23127 cases, but there is no guarantee that a probation sentence will be ordered after a plea of guilt or after a criminal trial on the VC 23127 charge.
Note: Whether or not a defendant is offered a probation sentence by the district attorney, either through a negotiated plea bargain, or is granted that probation sentence by the judge after a criminal conviction, depends largely on the defendant’s criminal history, the circumstances of the case, the damage(s), if any, to victim by the defendant’s behavior, the remorse shown by the defendant, and more.
Term of Probation Sentence: A probation sentence carries terms of probation. The terms of probation in a VC 23127 case usually contain the following: Do not drive unless properly insured, pay all court fines and fees (up to a $1,000.00), refrain from visiting the location of the crime (path or trail), do not commit further criminal offenses while on probation (felony or misdemeanor crimes), and more. Keep in mind that the judge may tailor a probation sentence to meet the needs of the defendant’s individual circumstances.
Jail Term as a Term of Probation: In some cases, the judge will order a jail sentence as a term of probation. This might seem contradictory as most probation sentences indicate that a defendant is not to be incarcerated. However, when a jail term is ordered as a term of probation, then that jail sentence may usually be served alternative on work-release or house arrest.
Note: A probation sentence for any VC 23127 violation is considered misdemeanor probation. This means that the defendant (probationer) is monitored by the court, not by a probation officer. For this reason, misdemeanor probation is often called “summary probation,” “court probation,” or “information probation.” For more information, see Misdemeanor v. Felony Probation.
Violation of Probation: If the defendant violates a probation sentence after a VC 23127 conviction, then the defendant may be charged as such (violation of probation). For more information, see Consequences of Violating Probation.
Court Fines: A conviction of unauthorized operation of a motor vehicle on path or trail carries up to a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. This fine is addition to any court fee and restitution that may -be ordered against the defendant (Restitution = monetary compensation victims for damage property and other economic loss [See Restitution Explained]).
Driver License Suspension: Violations of VC 23127 do not ordinarily carry driver license suspension consequences; however, a violation of VC 23127 will add “points” to a defendant’s driving record and those points can add up over time to cause the driver’s license to be suspended.
Criminal Protective Order: If the defendant’s illegal conduct appears to relate to a purposeful and personal harm to another person, then the judge may order a criminal protective order (CPO) in favor of the victim. A criminal protective order is restraining order issued by a criminal court that orders the defendant to stay away from a person or a person’s property (private property path or trail). A CPO is probably unusual in most VC 23127 cases where the defendant is not also charged with another crime, such as criminal threats, stalking, trespass, vandalism, etc.).
Civil Lawsuit: A conviction for VC 23127 results in criminal penalties, but that does not mean that the defendant can not also be civilly sued for her trespass on the path or trail. Also, if damage is caused to the unauthorized motor vehicle use of a path or trail, then the owner of the path or trail may also recover money damages in civil court for that loss.
Note: Per the civil procedure doctrine of “negligence per se,” any damage caused by the defendant while illegally travelling a motor vehicle on a path or trail is presumed to be the result of the defendant’s negligence.
Collateral Consequences: In addition to the direct criminal consequences of a VC 23127 conviction listed above, the following collateral consequences could also result to the defendant: loss of a professional license (i.e. therapist, dentist, lawyer, doctor, etc.), loss of immigration status (deportation, denial of reentry into the U.S., denial of naturalization, and more), loss of military status (denial of entry or discharge from the military), loss of insurance, and more.
Note: VC 23127 is not considered a crime involving moral turpitude. A crime involving moral turpitude a crime that involves dishonesty, deceit, or is otherwise considered morally wrong. Generally speaking, criminal involving moral turpitude carry greater collateral consequences with respect to immigration, professional license, and military service issues. However, just because VC 23127 is not considered a crime involving moral turpitude it does not mean that a defendant will not suffer these collateral consequences. For more information, see Immigration Consequences for Criminal Convictions, Professional Licensing Consequences for Criminal Conviction, Military Service Consequences for Criminal Convictions, Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude, and contact a criminal defense attorney without delay.
Bail: Bail is the holding of money or property in trust by the court (staked), which is subject to forfeiture if the defendant does not appear in criminal court, and which is usually deposited through a bail agent. Bail is intended to secure a defendant’s presence in court during the criminal proceedings. Bail in misdemeanor VC 23127 is usually low ($5,000 in San Bernardino Criminal Courts). Bail can be increased, decreased, or even waived (Own Recognizance Release [OR]) in any VC 23127 case depending on several factors, including the defendant’s criminal history (For more information, see Bail in Criminal Courts).
VC 23127 Common Defenses
Every VC 23127 case is different; therefore, the defenses that apply to any VC23127 case will often be different than the next. With that said, some defenses are common to particular criminal charges. With respect to the criminal charge of unauthorized motor vehicles on paths or trails, common defense include: statute of limitations (1 year), coerced confessions, entrapment, illegal search and seizure, consent of the owner (authorized use of path or trail), mistake of fact, and more.
Statutory Defenses: Per VC 23127, certain defenses are built into the alleged offense. These defenses include: implied consent of use by emergency vehicles; pathway not clearly marked all entrances AND exits, pathway not clearly marked no less than every mile within the path or trail; and the “vehicle” is not motorized (bicycle, skateboard, roller skates, etc.).
Plea Bargain to Dismiss VC 23127 Charge: Sometimes, a district attorney or a court will agree to dismiss the VC 23127 charge if the defendant is willing to plea guilty, or no contest, to lessor offense. See PC 1385 Dismissal in the Interest of Justice.
Diversion: A “diversion” option might also be available to the defendant. Diversion is the dismissal of a criminal charge upon the completion of conditions similar to a probation sentence (to "divert" or go around the criminal prosecution process). For more information, see Diversion in Criminal Court.
Finally, in some cases, the district attorney might be amendable to a “civil compromise” in a VC 23127 case where no injury is caused to a victim. A civil compromise is a dismissal of the criminal charges upon the completion of payment restitution to the victim and with the victim’s consent (See Civil Compromise).
Post-Conviction Options: If a defendant has been convicted of VC 23127, then the defendant may be entitled to some of the following post-conviction options: expungement of the VC 23127 conviction (PC 1203.4), modification of probation terms, including reducing the length of probation (PC 1203.4), appeal of the criminal conviction, withdraw of the guilty plea (PC 1018 Motion), and more.
Finally, if the defendant is charged with a violation of Vehicle Code 23127, but the district attorney declines to prosecute, or the district attorney prosecuted the case but the defendant was found not guilty at trial (the VC 23127 charge was dismissed as part of a plea bargain), then the defendant might be entitled to have his criminal arrest and/or citation for VC 23127 removed from her criminal history (See PC 1385 Dismissal, and Seal & Destroy Criminal Arrest).
For more information on VC 23127, unauthorized motor vehicle on a trail or pathway, contact our criminal defense lawyers today. Our criminal attorneys offer free consultation for persons charged with any misdemeanor or felony offense, including VC 23127. Our attorney exclusively criminal cases in the Inland Empire, including Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Victorville, Riverside, Fontana, Rialto, and more. Call today for a free consultation!
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